Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Cleaning from top to bottom

Do you know how to clean a house?  I don't.

Don't get me wrong.  I know how to clean a kitchen, bathrooms, even the dining room.  I know how to put things away in the bedroom and vacuum and sweep.  But life gets in the way of daily cleaning, and eventually, our whole house looks like a tornado hit it and my poor husband has given up on me, and eventually it's time to put things to rights.  Since we are having my in-laws over after Christmas and we are having our annual New Year's Party, we need to spend the next week seriously cleaning house.  Which requires me to admit that well, I don't really know how to clean a house.  Obviously, the proper steps are:

1) Get stuff off the floor/counter/couch/bed and put it away
2) Clean/vacuum/sweep/lysol/change tablecloth, etc. until shiny.

However, I don't really know the right order to start tackling things in.  Normally I start with the dining room, because the table is kind of a vacuum/dumping ground and is covered in stuff.  However, it occurred to me recently that when doing a week-long deep clean, you must instead start with the least frequently used rooms of the house, as they are the least likely to get messed up again.  So I have opted instead to start with the guest room and the living room.  Next will be the bathrooms, the hallway/steps, the office, and then our bedroom, and lastly, the dining room/kitchen.

In addition to not knowing the right order, I'm never sure where to start.  I fixate on little things and abandon the big picture.  I focus on dusting the molding, not clearing the stuff from the coffee table.  I have helped enough other people clean to know that this failure to look at the big picture is not unique.  It ends in throwing all of the things in a box and shoving it in the bathtub/closet/under the table before people come over.  This is bad.  In the future, I plan to use this "clean from top to bottom, left to right" method to avoid fixating on anything too large or too small and move quickly.  I am also in the market for a better method for dusting besides Swiffer dusters, so if you have any suggestions, let me hear them. (I do not actually know how to dust anything.  I know how to use pledge, but I don't think I'm supposed to use pledge on the fake plants in our bookshelf.  I also don't want to just shake the dust into the air, as I have a severe dust allergy.)

As far as keeping a house in good shape, I really like a lot of the ideas from this Daily Quick Cleaning Checklist.  We try to do 10-minute cleaning bursts daily, which helps a lot, but it's easy to fall behind on them.  But I'm open to more ideas - how do you keep your house clean?  What order do you clean in?  How do you dust?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Monday Marriage Matters: Christmas Shopping

I've recently noticed something on television that I find a little disturbing.  All of the ads about holiday shopping either show:
1) Mom/wife doing all of the shopping for the family.
2) Husband confused and terrible at buying gifts, wrapping gifts, and guessing what people want.

I find this disturbing mostly because it mimics the gender roles in my relationship, and I never thought of our holiday shopping practices as gendered.  This is because in the past, I've been a student or I've been unemployed.  Therefore I have had the free time to go do all the holiday shopping.  In fact, since high school, I've played Santa for my entire family, from my grandmother to my little cousins, and this trend continues.  My mom and I usually go Black Friday shopping to buy gifts for people, but this year we missed that and I've done most of the shopping on my own because my mom has been overwhelmed at work (it turns out being a highly successful doctor is demanding.)

So this year, as in years past, we've collected together family wishlists, organized what we are getting, and then I ordered everything on Amazon or picked it up on my way to work.  We tackle wrapping together in the evenings leading up to Christmas, and try to make sure we have everything organized and together for multiple Christmases.  It works for us, because I don't work long hours and the Amazon prime subscription is on my account.  It works for us because I love buying gifts for people.  I love the challenge of thinking of what somebody wants or needs that they don't even know they want or need.  I love writing down gift ideas I have for people months in advance, and then three months later they are delighted I have remembered something they mentioned in passing.  I am, largely, the kind of person who is a little too blunt and a little too awkward and often says the wrong thing, but with gifts, I can say or do the right thing.

It nags at me, though, the gendered-ness of it.  That we reinforce the idea that women, as the caretakers and the nurturers, are the ones responsible for the purchasing of holiday gifts.  How can I fight the stereotype while not giving up on the thing I love the most about the holidays?  What do you and your partner do?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Does getting married mean growing up?

The thing I find the most challenging about being married is this idea that being married means I'm automatically a grown-up.  Have you seen Parks & Recreation?  April and Andy, the only married couple on the show, are about as far from being grown-ups as anyone I've ever seen.  But I love the episode where they go to Bed Bath & Beyond and Andy finally admits to April that he really wants his own fork. 

April doesn't mind sharing a fork because she doesn't want to grow up because grown-ups are boring.  I won't spoil the episode if anybody hasn't seen it (and if you haven't, why haven't you seen it? Go watch it. Then we'll talk.) but I will say, these are two people that resist the idea that being married means you need to be a grown-up.

Now, I badly want to be a grown-up and I don't mind being boring.  But I do mind this idea that somehow, I'm supposed to have grown up overnight just because I'm married now.  I still leave my socks everywhere and my poor tired husband still follows me around trying to get me to put my cereal bowl in the sink (or the dishwasher) after breakfast.  I forget what day trash day is and when I don't put a new bag in the recycling bin, I still throw whatever I'm holding into it, figuring I'll put in a new bag later.

One of my friends defined being a grown-up as, "realizing your actions have consequences, and learning from that."  For example, when I started working, I realized I could not just throw my suits on the bedroom floor because I did not have time to iron them daily.  So I started hanging my suits up.  I was continuously late to work because I couldn't find my keys. I'm now much better about hanging my keys on the key hook we keep next to the door.  I hope that in a few years, I will be the kind of person that puts all my clothes away or in the hamper, that makes sure both socks make it into and out of the laundry, and never has to soak another cereal bowl. 

What does being a grown-up mean to you?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Monday Marriage Matters: Holiday Cards

I started sending holiday cards after my first year in Law School. I made my own cards, and found post-finals to be a great time to get my craft on and relax with a big pile of red and green paper, rubber stamps, and glue dots.  Mark sent his own cards, and occasionally, signed cards to his friends that I wrote out.  This continued for three years of thoughtful, heartfelt Christmas cards which went out in a haphazard process of me not having any idea who I actually sent cards to (and later finding a card that did not get mailed to x, y, or z under my craft table.)  It was not a good system, but I found that I really liked the tradition of keeping in touch with certain people via holiday card (something my parents value as well, because for people that do not have Facebook, the holiday cards are how you keep in touch with people.)  Last year, we made the jump to photo cards which do not require exhausting heartfelt sentiments and instead let you generally wish people the best for the coming year.  (And a Merry Christmas if you and they celebrate it.)

I loved last year's cards that I did on Shutterfly (who sponsored them), except they broke my one rule: dont send cards that say Merry Christmas.  But the thing was, I really wanted a card that let me tell people that I passed the bar exam, because that was news that I got in November after the wedding and if you weren't on Facebook, you didn't know.  So I used one of Shutterfly's "year in review" cards that let us talk about the highlights of the year.  We listed exciting things that happened to me, to Mark, and to both of us, followed by "yay!!!" at appropriate intervals. 

It was cheesy, but we were told it was just cheesy enough.  (I think the key when you don't have kids and send Christmas cards that are a little ironic.) We didn't send it to Jews who are offended by Christmas cards, and we didn't send to our friends because we didn't want to spend the money on extra cards (erm, sorry friends).  The year-in-review theme is a good option to consider if you are sick of writing Thank You notes, don't want to write a holiday letter, but have news to share with people. 

This year we ordered holiday cards from Vistaprint.  I don't expect the quality to be as good as Shutterfly, but we are sending 80+ cards this year and they were less than $40 for 80.  I also looked into Mixbook, and both Mixbook and Vistaprint let you customize the text of your card so it says Happy Holidays or Seasons Greetings or Happy New Year or Let it Snow.  I am anxiously awaiting our holiday cards arrival in the mail, but since we picked the "Slow" shipping, I suspect they will end up arriving the week between Christmas and New Years.  That's fine, since really, they are New Year's cards.

This is our refined holiday card strategy (roughly the same as our process for wedding invites, so this might look familiar to you):
1.) Pick a photo, bicker over whether holiday photo is holiday-y enough since you took it over the summer and are wearing t-shirts. If no photo can be agreed on, stage a photo shoot.  Ask your parents to take the photo. Argue over photographic style differences and whether a flash is necessary with said parent. Vow to hire a professional next year. Upload photo to card website. Debate card layouts and language. Order cards. 
2.) Consolidate and update addresses before cards arrive, perform a mail merge and print labels
3.) Buy stamps (when you have 15 overseas family members needing cards, you spend more on postage than cards).
4.) When cards arrive, label and stamp while watching a favorite holiday film (my preferred favorite is The Santa Clause).  Write personal notes on cards if you really want to.  Add a "Happy Hanukkah" note on the Jewish cards unless Hanukkah has already ended for the year.  Look up spelling of Hanukkah if you are not sure.
5.) Mail cards!

What do you do about holiday cards? 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The New Blog

Our domain name expired recently, and so, instead of renewing it, I think we'll be changing the name/direction of the blog.  I'm pretty much done writing about weddings.  They still excite and interest me, but I feel that I have very little left to say on the subject that you couldn't find in the archives, which, as part of the redesign and renaming, I will probably get around to organizing better.

I want to keep writing, and as several of you have expressed that you would like it if I kept writing, I would like to know what you want me to keep writing about.  If you want Mark to keep writing, I think you'll need to start a petition or something, he's a really terrible blogger.  But he does the laundry, so I really can't complain.

I will continue Monday Marriage Matters, and then I would like to write 1-2 more posts during the week about...something.  I want to talk about married life, and nesting, and other things, but not in the "home decor and throw pillows" way, more like in the "creating an intentional home that represents who we are and is a pleasant place to spend time".  I want to talk about crafting, not necessarily in the making tutorials and sharing all my craft projects, but instead, in the "oh my goodness I'm a busy professional and however will I fit in enough time to do the things I want to do instead of just the things I have to do?"  And most importantly, I want to talk about these things with you guys, not at you guys.  Which means installing a plug in so we can have conversations, but also, talking about things you want to talk about.  So please!  Come on over, answer the poll in the left hand corner, or comment, and tell me what you want to talk about.  And please suggest a name for the new blog!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Did you buy the book yet?

Okay, for starters, today is my big sister's birthday.  And she's all kinds of awesome.  So Happy Birthday, Margaret!
(at the wedding weekend 5k)
During wedding planning, my big sister was my sanity saver, my rock, my reminder that, "none of this really matters" and "it's your wedding, but x is a bad idea".  (x being: running the 5k on the actual wedding day; doing my own flowers while also making my own dress; serving non-vegetarians nothing but eggplant or tofu).  It was my sister who told me that "your wedding is going to start late, there is nothing you can do about it, stop freaking out."  It was my sister who negotiated with all the other brides at Running of the Brides to get me my dress, and my sister who talked me off the ledge when I decided it wasn't the right dress, and convinced me that really, it was the right dress. I freely admit that I totally botched the bridesmaids dress picking (look, it's a disaster no matter what), and she didn't complain about any of it.  None of the advice she gave me while planning, or now, while being a wife, has been wrong.

So, it seems really fitting that the APW Book Buy is on her birthday.  Because this book is going to be the big sister you don't have, if you don't have one, or yours isn't doing the things big sisters are supposed to do and you need some serious sanity.  It will be the calming voice of reason telling you that there is no wrong way to get married.  It will be the thing that helps you stay grounded when your mom is going on and on about favors or great Aunt Ida or needing to have a church wedding.  And for those of us who are already married?  It will give us better ways to give unsolicited wedding advice to others, because we all need to be the big sister to somebody down the line.

So get thee to Amazon or the bookstore and pre-purchase your copy now!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Monday Marriage Matters: It's Beginning to look a lot like Christmas

I've become very interested lately in the rituals of different members of couples surrounding the holiday season.   My sister-in-law and her husband, for their first Christmas living together, are negotiating whether to decorate the Christmas tree before December 24th, as his family always decorates their tree together on Christmas Eve.  For the past couple of years, my sister has gotten a mini tree from Whole Foods and decked it out with Hanukkah lights and ornaments, compromising with her Jewish husband over how much Christmas they should have in their house.  One friend admitted that in her family, they got their tree the day after Thanksgiving, but in her spouse's family, they got it much closer to Christmas, and they were trying to negotiate that.  Mark and I are lucky, because we have relatively similar feelings about how to handle Christmas, and trees.  Mostly learned through a series of trial and error. 

My first Christmas in my own apartment, my roommates and I got a tree.  We drove to the sketchy discount tree lot on Greenbelt Road in College Park, loaded a big evergreen into the backseat of my Ford Taurus, piled the three of us in the front seat, and then took it back to Courtyards, where we carried it up three flights of steps and managed to somehow get it in a tree stand.

After three weeks of watering the tree and getting pine needles stuck in my hair, and vacuuming needles until sometime after Easter, I started to see the merits of an artificial tree.  Mark, probably sensing he would be the one carrying the tree up several flights of steps, agreed.  We tried the live potted tree one year and when that didn't work, we broke down, and purchased a six foot, pre-lit, Christmas tree.  Now, there are people who are hardcore about wanting live trees.  Those people have probably never watched this video.  I have nothing against live trees, but cutting a tree down every year just to decorate my house seemed wasteful, although it's not like my artificial tree is significantly more environmentally friendly.  (But seriously, I love live trees.  I just don't think the "smell" is worth all that work.)

I come from a family that does not decorate.  For holidays, or generally.  My parents have stark white walls in every room of the house, with a few paintings done by my great-grandfather.  They are wonderful people, but they are not skilled at decorating.  Christmas decorating for my folks involves my dad throwing lights at the bushes, my mom breaking out the ceramic Christmas tree that my great-grandpa painted for her, and my dad putting those electric candles in the windows.  For Mark's family, Christmas decorating involves my mother-in-law hauling out ten bins of Christmas decorating materials, crafting a Christmas village on a special table, rearranging furniture, hanging Christmas paraphernalia everywhere, and stocking candy dishes with holiday m&ms. 

When it comes to how much we decorate, the answer has been largely one that appeals to Mark's frugality and my laziness.  Mark hangs holiday lights in the windows, we put up the tree, a wreath goes on the door, and we hang stockings.  We are slowly but surely amassing a collection of Christmas figurines that decorate the mantel and bookcases, but our decorating remains fairly subtle. Every year, I pick up some stuff at the after-Christmas sales and stick it in the bins for next year, leading to a pleasant surprise the following December. 

We are lucky, I think, that we are both able to be flexible enough on our traditions and rituals and are generally in line that: you do not celebrate Christmas before Thanksgiving, that holiday cards should be non-denominational, that Christmas should be spent with family.  We are trying to create our own traditions - we take Christmas Eve (or the day before) off from family and spend it just with each other, cooking an elaborate meal that takes an insane amount of time and is fantastically good.  Then we open our stockings by the fire. 

What do you do to celebrate the holidays? Do you and your partner celebrate the same holidays?  How do you make it work if you don't?  Are you creating new traditions together or building on ones you already had with your family?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Monday (er, Tuesday) Marriage Matters: Driving

Thanksgiving went well, although, as I suspected, there is no perfect solution to splitting holidays.  So we're still working on it. 

Thanksgiving also brought up another interesting issue in our marriage - driving.  Recently, when discussing our Egyptian friends, Mark turned to me and asked if the mom in the family drove.  I looked at him as if he was insane, and said, "of course."  (Women in Egypt are allowed to drive.)  He shrugged and said he had never seen her drive.  I looked at him and said, "I don't drive when we're together."  Which is true, except for when we go to some beer related event or festival and I DD. 

This weekend, I did more driving on a car trip than I think I've done the entire time we've been together.  I don't enjoy driving, and I definitely don't enjoy driving on long car trips.  Couple this with the fact that my husband is a major backseat driver (he starts tapping me from like, two miles away to slow down when there is a car ahead with the brake lights on), and that I hate driving stick shift, and yeah, my husband does 90% of the driving when we are together.

I see this dynamic in a lot of couples, and it feels pretty gendered, other than my parents, where my mother drives and my father "navigates" or, sometimes, covers his eyes and cowers in the corner while on mountains and cliffs.  I have a number of little old lady clients who do not drive, and have never driven. The reason a lot of people give is that their spouse likes to drive, and they do not.  I believe I also used this excuse as to why I do not do the income taxes and got a dirty look from my husband, who also does not like to do the taxes. 

I always offer to drive, in the "I'm offering because I know you'll say no" kind of way, but this weekend, I wound up behind the wheel for part of the trip up to New Jersey and the entire trip home, while my husband sat next to me in the car and tried to make pleasant conversation.  That lasted for about 20 minutes and then we decided to see if we could download books on tape.  We wound up listening to 12 Angry Men for most of the ride, which was a lot of fun, and then the Indigo Girls for the rest of the night, as whoever drives gets to pick the music (I suspect this is a big part of why my husband offers to drive.) 

So weigh in - do you drive the most, or does your spouse?  Is it always the man who does more driving?  In same-sex couples, is it the same way, that one partner prefers to drive?  Do you discuss it, or is it just the way it is? 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Monday Marriage Matters: The Holidays

It wouldn't, couldn't, be Thanksgiving week without the "how the eff do you split the holidays between your families" post, now could it?

(yes, it's too early for Christmas, but when a fellow APWer invites you over to make gingerbread houses, you do not say no)

This year, we are doing that thing that last year I said I wouldn't do: we are going to visit Mark's family for Thanksgiving.  Which means that not only do I have to go to New Jersey, I'm going to be spending Thanksgiving with my brother-in-law, who normally I like, but he roots for Dallas and apparently the Dallas game is required viewing on Thanksgiving.  I'm trying to not be petty about this, but seeing as I've already e-mailed my SIL to see if there is anything else planned during the Dallas game for the rest of us to do, that's clearly out the window.  

I find myself feeling incredibly anxious about not spending Thanksgiving with my family.  It turns out that also, not hosting Thanksgiving does not stop me from worrying that a) we won't have enough food or b) I'm not making enough food.  Which is why I've offered to bring 5 dishes to Thanksgiving dinner.  

I would be lying if I did not talk about one of the bigger issues here: I'm spending Thanksgiving with strangers.  My sister-in-law has invited both her family and her in-laws, and all are coming (is this what normal people do? My family is hard pressed to do anything normal.)  I have met, and like, her husband's family (they are pretty much the nicest, friendliest, most fun-having people I've ever met), but Thanksgiving should be the time of year in which you can wear elastic waist pants and not worry about sticking your elbow in the cranberry sauce, not a time of year to be on your best behavior so you don't humiliate your sister (perhaps by not writing a blog post about how afraid of her in laws you are...).  In addition, I don't know how they feel politically, which shouldn't be an issue at Thanksgiving, I'll agree, but I do enough political work that it sometimes comes out, and it's also REALLY hard to stay quiet when somebody else says something I don't agree with.  Also, will they follow the seemingly age-old rule that the womenfolk all get up after dinner and do the dishes together while the men sit around the table drinking brandy?  Because that rule sucks and I don't want to take part in it, but I don't want to seem unhelpful.  

I'm trying to focus on the fact that I get Christmas with my family and that this is what our families asked us to do this year - his sister asked to host Thanksgiving, mine wanted to host Christmas, and his mother kindly requested we come up with a way to stop eating and running at the holidays, which is probably fair but has left me without something to agonize and stress out over and I'm just not sure how to celebrate the holidays without that.  (Clearly I'm substituting my stranger-danger anxiety instead.) 

How are you managing this issue this year?  Does anyone have any advice on how to be nice to the Dallas fans at Thanksgiving?  Or to avoid telling somebody that you think that Herman Cain is maybe not such a great choice for President?  How do you get the men to get up and help with the dishes as well as the women?  

Monday, October 31, 2011

Monday Marriage Matters: Getting In Shape

In September, I stepped up my half-marathon training and my husband started running again.  We both quickly realized that his four or five miles runs were as hard on him as my ten and eleven mile runs.  This is a problem because in the past, he's been able to run 4-5 miles with very little training and no problems (yeah, I know, I'm jealous too.)  I thought that the fact he rides his bike to work and goes rock-climbing regularly would be enough to keep him in shape - but the reality is that those daily bike rides amount to maybe 3 miles of riding, and with our crazy schedules these days, his rock-climbing went from regular to occasional.  We stopped going on long weekend bike rides when we got back from our trip to Wales, for which we had done the long weekend bike rides as training.

So we've started working out together.  I use the term pretty loosely.  But for the past month or so, we wake up at the same time (which means I'm getting up a half-hour earlier than I used to) and go into the office/gym together, where one of us uses the treadmill and the other person does weights, or we both do a workout video, or I do a workout video and he lifts weights.  It's been going pretty well, although we are often considerably tired and hard to get out of bed.  Sometimes we oversleep and skip the workout.  But overall, it's a better routine for both of us.  One thing I have realized is that nobody ever taught Mark the proper form for squats or lunges, so I'm really glad we started working out together and I can make sure he doesn't hurt himself.

We've also started running together.  Not actually running together, but when I go for a run, my husband also goes for a run.  We had a somewhat successful run in Michigan in which we stayed near each other most of the time, otherwise we just leave the house at the same time and run along the same general path.  Since I'm training for my first marathon, my runs are typically longer.  As winter sets in, it's too dark in the mornings to run outside, and soon it will be too cold in the morning and too dark in the evening, so we are struggling to come up with creative solutions.  I can run later in the morning, once the sun is up, but I think Mark is going to be stuck on the treadmill through the winter.

Our semi-together workouts have got me thinking that it would be nice if we had a way to workout that actually involved us working out together, besides going for walks.  I've been thinking of setting up some kind of circuit that involves some kind of partner drills, but the only ones I can think of involve a medicine ball, which we don't have, and pose the possibility of significant risk to the wall.  I've considered moving our Wii Fit upstairs to the gym-office so that we can do Wii boxing against each other, but I don't know how well that would work out for us.  Are there any other good games we could check out?  (We don't have a Wii fit and I don't want one.)

It feels good to be getting back in shape together, and it feels even better to have somebody who motivates me and pushes me to get up and work out.  We could look at this as working out together will help us live longer and have a better life together, but I prefer to think of it as a way to spend time together and enjoy each other's company and try new things together.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Really Lazy Bunting

I went to RenFest last week with my in-laws and my parents, and one of the things I noticed was that they had awesome bunting strung up.  Except it wasn't actually bunting.  It was lazy-girl bunting.  (I'm not assuming that only girls make bunting.  I'm using lazy-girl as a generic term here instead of poor man's bunting.)

What does lazy-girl bunting look like?

A single strand does look a little bare, but they had it zig-zagging the whole way through the festival and it looked awesome.  I thought it would be a great way for somebody to add a lot of color to their wedding for almost no money - because everyone has extra ribbon lying around (especially anyone that registered at Williams Sonoma) - and ribbon can be bought for pretty cheap at craft stores or online.  I love the look of all the multicolored ribbons, but if you wanted to only do your wedding colors, you could still spice it up with different textures and shades.  It also takes up less space than regular flag bunting, and would be much more reusable, since you could re-purpose the ribbon to wrap Christmas presents or make crafts.

Any other ideas for lazy-girl bunting?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Monday Marriage Matters: Working Late

So back in June, I found myself a job - it's not technically full-time, permanent employment, and it's not really lawyer work, but it's a job and I like it and things have been much better with both of us working, for about a million reasons.  But there is one thing that is kind of frustrating about working, which is that things happen.  They happen at the end of the day when we are desperately trying to get something in the mail, or ready to be filed, or signed, or faxed.

For the past four years, my husband has been working at a job at which things frequently happen that keep him after work.  He gets home anytime between 5pm and 2:30am.  (That only happened the once though.)  I used to get really annoyed when I would have dinner ready at 6pm and he wouldn't get home for another half hour, or when I asked him when he was coming home and he said, "eventually."  But, sometime in the past four years, I realized that I really shouldn't give him a hard time about coming home late, because usually he can't help it, and unless we have something we are trying to go to, it doesn't really cause that much disruption in our lives.  (I did start a rule that if he wasn't home by 6, I was allowed to eat without him, since I liked to eat and then do homework.  Since I'm not in school anymore, I no longer have this rule.)

When I started working, I got the same treatment.  Mark is generally understanding that sometimes I get caught at work, with the only exceptions being when we have some place we need to go, like a flight to catch or a dinner party or something, which we have previously discussed and previously agreed to be home by a certain time for.  I strive to do the same, although I think we can both admit it's a little frustrating when the inevitable happens and the other person gets stuck at work, even though we discussed this.  

This has also fostered a general attitude of "rolling with the punches" when it comes to job stuff.  When my husband tells me he has to go out of town, I roll with it, even if it means cancelling plans we already had.  When I have a work event or networking function come up at the last minute, he makes dinner and doesn't complain.  I feel like this general approach creates a supportive environment for us when it comes to our careers, which is nice, and it fosters a general spirit of reciprocity which we are trying to apply to other aspects of our relationship as well.

How do you and your spouse navigate working late?  Do you work generally the same hours, or does one of you usually work later than the other?  Do you have things where even though they sorta bug you, you just let them go and your spouse does the same?

Friday, October 21, 2011

A good weekend for weddings!

Two big weddings this weekend!  Sarah, who has a love story that makes you want to cry with happiness and a way of writing about the hard things that makes me feel optimistic, and Melissa, who is actually a real-life friend of mine.  Well, it's weird.  We met on the internet first.  But she lives a mile away and we have a very good mutual friend and we're going to take over the world.  So we're totally real-life friends.  It'll be awesome.
Melissa and I, at the House of Delegates, working to pass same-sex marriage.

Have such great weekends, both of you, and anybody else getting married this weekend!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Monday Marriage Matters: Weddings as investments

I've talked a little bit about the idea of weddings as investments on here before, and Becca has covered it as well, but I just wanted to say.  After being married for more than a year, I unquestionably see our wedding now as an investment.

Our wedding was an investment in ourselves, in our relationship, in our baby family.  There have been times in the past year when we've fought and wondered whether we were going to make it as a family.  We wondered where the hell the light was at the end of the tunnel.  When these things happened, I pictured the people we love the most in the world, sitting on benches, watching us swear vows to each other, and promising to support us.
When we go through difficult things, I focus on the words in our ceremony.  I remember how the chocolate tasted and how sweet the wine was afterwards.
Our wedding was more than an investment in ourselves though.  It was, as Becca said, an investment in joy.  It was an investment in happy memories with the people I love the most in the world.  When I think about my family, and the difficult things my cousins, my aunts and uncles, and my parents are facing, I think also about the way it felt to have my cousins lift us during the hora while the rest of our family and friends circled us.  
Do I think that how much you spend on a wedding is at all important in determining the outcome of your marriage?  No I do not.  Do I think any of these things we got out of our wedding are because we spent more money on our wedding?  No I do not.  But the number one tip I see for cutting the budget of your wedding is to invite fewer people, and that is bullsh*t when it comes to the people you love.  No savings is worth cutting important people out of your day, or hurting the feelings of the people you love.  But there is more to an investment than money.  There is time - there is investing a full day, or a full weekend, into your wedding.  Some of us invest energy into crafts, into menu planning, into creating an awesome playlist.  Some of us invest time into pre-marital counseling or creating a ceremony that reflects us.  This is just to remind you that the work that you are doing now, the stress that you are feeling now, it's worth it, and it pays off.  

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Do I need to say it?

Today is National Coming Out Day.  You may have missed it, but we here at Wedding for Two are proud allies of LGBT persons and the movement for marriage equality.  Here in Maryland, I have recently had the pleasure of getting involved with a fantastic organization, called the Free State Legal Project, which works to provide LGBT persons with legal assistance.  You should give them some money, if you are feeling like donating to making the lives of LGBT people who Maryland totally betrayed by not passing same-sex marriage a little bit easier and better until we can actually pass same-sex marriage.

So.  To our LGBT readership and all the other allies, I raise a glass to you today, and say, today, we declare ourselves allies, and tomorrow, we fight!  For injustice everywhere is a threat to justice everywhere and as married people, we owe it to everyone to strengthen the institution of marriage by extending it to all who want to take a part.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Monday Marriage Matters: Anniversary!

What have I learned in the year we have been married?
1.) Marriage is kind of difficult, but the thing that nobody tells you is that once you get married, people treat you like a grownup.  And being a grownup is really effing hard and kinda really sucks.  This is compounded by graduating from school in the worst legal job market in many, many years, and having to deal with being a grownup and being unemployed.  So marriage is hard, but being a grownup is really hard.  I don't know if marriage is easier for people who get married later and were already a grownup first, but I'm curious.

2.) Nothing shuts people who ask, "how's married life?" up faster than saying, "It's really really hard. But I think that's just because I'm unemployed and pretty bummed about the future a lot of the time and I sort of take it out on my husband."  If you too find this question annoying, I highly recommend oversharing about all of the ways that being married is really hard.  
3.) I'm still not sure what to do with my last name.
4.) Even the most supportive, loving, saintly spouse will get frustrated if you continuously lose the mail somewhere between the mailbox and the dining room table.
5.) Marriage is a lot of work.  There is something about being married that makes you say, "we have to work on this now, because we're still going to be married in forty years and it will still be a problem, and I would like to not have this same fight for forty years."  Marriage involves a lot more compromise than we expected.
6.) Your wedding pictures have the power to constantly make you happy.  I now understand what photographers mean when they say, "investment".  I always thought it was a snarky way to make sure that you didn't notice them robbing you blind.  But our pictures are art, they are powerful, they are memories, they are my pick-me-up on crummy days, and they make my heart sing.  Worth. Every. Penny.
7.) You may feel an instinct to be a good wife, and to do things because you are a wife.  Fight this.  It's a dumb instinct.  You will do things that actually make you unhappy and resentful.  I didn't realize this until I spoke to a friend about it, and she said she finds it common in friends of hers who have gotten married and then talk about how hard it is.  So. Spend the first year of marriage focusing less on how to be a good wife, or the person you think your partner wants to be, and work on growing up your own self into the person you want to be, because you are pretty darn awesome already, and your spouse likes who you are currently, so it's a safe bet that they will also like the person you are becoming.

8.) Being married is really different.  I wish I could put it into words, but it turns out to be fairly un-expressable.  But I will say, being married is, it turns out, a whole lot more than living together.  Because a lot of people have said, when I respond to the "how's married life" question, with "it's different", with "really? but you lived together for like, three years!"  Turns out that marriage is not, in fact, figuring out how to navigate the issues of who makes dinner and who leaves their socks on the floor and who looses the mail.  Marriage is bigger.  Marriage is building a life together.  Marriage is every decision, every fight, every compromise paves the way for a future that requires you to continue to wake up every morning, and go to bed every evening, knowing that you made the right choice and that this is who you are spending your life with, even if right now maybe you don't like them so much.

9.) Building a life together is no small thing.  There are matters of geography, of priorities, of health insurance and vacation time and how much time is a reasonable amount to spend with the in-laws.  There are questions of spaces in your togetherness, and making sure you spend enough time together to make sure the other person still feels like a priority.  

10.) It is okay to put your marriage first.  Even my parents, who are, and I mean this in the most loving way possible, Dad, the neediest people I know about seeing us, are amazing understanding when I say, "my husband and I need to do x".  My work understands when I say that I have to check with my husband to see if it's okay for me to stay late, come in early, or take a road trip to Pennsylvania.  I turned down a potential job because the hours it required would have put too much of a strain on my marriage, and even in this economy, this was completely understood by everybody I talked to about it.
All pictures by Prema Photographic or personal photos.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Monday Marriage Matters: Grief

We cannot be everything to everyone, even to the person that we are married to.  For us, there is no better reminder of this than when we are facing grief.  Because as much as we want to be there for us, neither of us is particularly good at consoling the other person.  As we have just lost a very dear friend, the question of how we as people, and how we as married people, manage grief is weighing on me.  Because what does it say about my marriage that my husband and I aren't very good at dealing with each other and raw, inconsolable grief?

Some people are good at managing other people's pain.  My sister, for one.  She is always funny when you need her to be, reassuring when you need her to be, and she never, ever says the wrong thing.  Myself, I am pragmatic, hysterical, and blunt.  I usually can be counted on to say the wrong thing.  I usually take the approaching of feeding people when they are grieving*, and trying my darndest to make myself useful.  I have learned, through much trial and error, that it is much better for me to just hold a person and say nothing than to try to console them, or to pick up the slack in other areas of their life so that they can focus on their own stuff.

My husband is equally bad, if not worse.  He is generally happy to hold me when I am sad, but he also falls asleep when I'm sobbing in bed after somebody I love has just died.  He listens while I talk about whoever I've lost, but he also doesn't understand when I don't go back to normal right away.  When I called him two weeks ago to give him the news, he told me he would leave work if I wanted him to, but otherwise he would stay and meet me in the evening wherever I was with my family.  I told him to keep working**, partly because I didn't want him to have to take the day off, but also because I knew he wasn't going to be nearly as helpful at helping me deal with the pain as my sister would be.  The next day, after making sure our friends made their flight and picking up the pieces, I called in the reinforcements and my bridesmaid (once a bridesmaid always a bridesmaid) came over for dinner and listened to me and said all the right things while my husband made us dinner.

And while I recognize that we all grieve differently, and handle grief differently, and neither of us is trained as a grief counselor, and I fully recognize that we cannot all be everything to everyone, I feel a bit concerned that neither of us is well equipped to deal with the other person when they are facing grief.  I don't really know how to improve this skill, because it's not really something I can, or want, to practice, but when we got married, we promised each other that we would be there for each other in the tough times, and I think we would both like to be there emotionally as well as physically.  So how do you and your partner handle grief?  Do you do everything together, like go to the hospital and the funeral and the services?  Do you have any tips for us when we face this in the future?

*I called my sister on the way to the hospital and said, "should I bring lunch?" and she said, "they aren't us...they don't have inappropriate food-grief relationships."   
**In retrospect, this was a mistake, because I could barely drive the car, and we have decided in the future, when something bad happens and I need to get somewhere fast while trying not to sob openly, Mark will drive me.  

Monday, September 26, 2011

Monday Marriage Matters: Friends

Last week, my family lost a very dear friend.  His family has been a part of our family for almost 25 years, and in the wake of the sorrow and grief that we are all working through, I've gotten to thinking about couple-friends. Because I know that for a lot of us, it's very hard to make friends. There's the first problem, which is that making friends as an adult is challenging.  You are likely to have work friends, or friends from various clubs or activities, but finding true kindred spirits is really challenging.  In school, especially college, making friends is easy. You have a dorm environment, it's easy to pick out people with similar interests or ideas, and everybody needs to make friends.

The problem with being a couple is that often for couples, a person dates or marries somebody that doesn't represent all facets of their being.  The reason you are friends with somebody isn't necessarily the reason why somebody else is friends with them, therefore it is entirely possible that your best friend could wind up with somebody that you don't really like or "get" at all.  Sometimes they wind up with somebody you think is totally awesome, and then it turns out your spouse doesn't really like either of them.  Sometimes they wind up with somebody you find extremely annoying, and then you and your spouse are sad because you have to stop hanging out with your friend because his/her annoying significant other always wants to come.  Sometimes they are awesome but they live far away and you don't get to see them that often.  (This was actually the case for us growing up - our friends lived in Egypt, so we saw them every other year, for about a month at a time.)  All of this makes me think that meeting the right other couples to be friends with is largely a matter of luck and being in the right place at the right time, and being committed enough to wanting friends that you pursue a friendship.

There are some other problems with being friends with a couple, and I think it's often hard for both people in the couple to like both members of the other couple equally.  This is the thing about my family and our friends that is really striking.  My parents both were really good friends with both members of the couple.  I should point out that if making friends for most people is challenging, making friends for my parents is Everest.  My mother is painfully shy and can be hard to get to know, and my dad is well, my dad.  But somehow, they found the two nicest, most warm-hearted people in the entire world who not only were willing to be my parents friends, but counted themselves lucky have my parents as friends!  I think another big part of this was they had children the same age, which gave them something in common and meant that nobody got left behind when the other couple decided to have kids.

I don't think there are any real secrets to making friends as couples - I think the answer might just be to keep trying to meet people until you meet the right people?  Or to make sure you regularly have dinner dates, etc. with other couples? Does anyone have any suggestions? Have you struggled to make friends with other couples, especially in a new city?  Do you think, like I do, that it is largely a matter of luck and meeting the right people, or is there something more that is required?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Monday Marriage Matters: Travel

My husband travels a lot for work - not a LOT a lot, but enough that I spend a certain number of nights alone.  And the thing about being alone is that well, it's kind of annoying. It's super-frustrating to cook for one person, and not have anybody to do the dishes.  But it's kind of liberating.  Because I can eat junk food, like frozen waffles and boxed mac and cheese, and eat stuff he doesn't like, like broccoli, and watch crummy television and go for long runs after work and sleep late.  Sure, nobody does the dishes, but I don't have to do them either. I can leave all the dishes until Friday morning and do a mad fit of dishes before my husband gets home.  (Don't worry sweetie, I don't.)

The main reason I don't really like being alone is something I probably should be ashamed to admit as a, y'know, Grownup: I am afraid of the dark. I mean, it's not the dark so much as I'm really creeped out generally when I'm alone.  When my husband goes out of town, I paranoidly check all of the closets; I have to have the TV or radio on because otherwise I interpret every creaking of every beam in our 100+ year old apartment as something going on.  This also leads to my staying up waaaay past my bedtime watching Daily Show reruns for company.

There are a few other strains that one of us or the other traveling (because in the past it was me) puts on our relationship - when one of us works late, or works nights, like my husband does when he is out of town, it's really hard to touch base.  We talk once or twice a day, for about five minutes, pretty much to make sure the other person is alive, the house is still standing, and to finalize any weekend plans, etc. that need to be made.  It's just really hard to have a long conversation when there is a manlift backing up in the background of a conversation.  It always feels like that episode of the Office where Pam and Jim keep calling each other and can't quite connect.

The other thing that's sometimes a problem is when a last minute trip comes up and we already had weekend plans, which means that he gets home and then we're off camping or to his folk's house for the weekend, or we're throwing some kind of party and the house needs to be sparkling.  It's hard to shift gears suddenly from not seeing each other to spending all our time together, and I always come out of it saying something like, "I just need some space right now!"  Usually, eventually, we settle down and he does the laundry and I make dinner, and then we eat together and get a chance to actually enjoy each other's company, but sometimes that takes days.

Does anyone else have a traveling spouse? How do you keep in contact and make it work if you can't talk regularly? Any suggestions for good single person meals? Bonus if they involve broccoli.  I'm not a big soup person though, so I'm reluctant to make a batch of soup and live off of it all week.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Surprising things from The Knot

I was talking to a friend yesterday, and we were talking about The Knot. And I have a lot of issues with the Knot, although they've corrected some of my big graphic design issues with the site (no more pop ups!) But I noticed one thing that was awesome, when I went to help my friend with her venue search. Because the thing that the Knot now allows you to sort by is whether the venue is handicapped accessible. 

If you have a handicapped family member, you know how hard it can be to find a handicapped accessible wedding venue.  Even family members you don't know are handicapped might show up in a wheelchair - that they didn't mention to you because they didn't want to trouble you.

Anyway, I just wanted to let everyone else know that, because maybe you're venue hunting and maybe you hate the Knot, and you've promised you would never go on there, but if you're looking for a handicapped accessible venue, it's a darn good place to start.  They also now sort by other things, like whether there is outdoor space available, or whether there is a Kosher option available (but seriously, are there venues that can't make a Kosher option happen? That seems to me like the one time that you let the couple bring in outside catering, even if you are proprietary. Weigh in in the comments.)

Also, if you loved your venue, make sure to submit it to the APW Venue directory, because that is going to be amazing.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Monday Marriage Matters: Guest Post

Remember Mike and Stacy and their fabulous seal-and-send invites? It's okay if you don't. All you need to know about Mike and Stacy is they are poster children for marriage.  Mike and Stacy make marriage look fun, and they are always thinking ahead to their next adventure.  So when they told us they were going to join LV's Ride and ride their bicycles across the country, nobody thought it was a weird thing for two young married people to do, but recently it occurred to me that riding a bicycle with your spouse, and a group of 10 other riders, staying in churches and camping outside with them, for two months, might take a toll on a marriage.  So I asked them to share their story with you, and here it is:

As we flew out to Oregon for our west-to-east cross country cycling trip, days before our first wedding anniversary, we were filled with excitement. In addition to anticipating amazing views of scenery and landscapes and the joys and challenges of cycling for 60 days, we were looking forward to meeting our fellow riders. We said, "Let's not ride together all the time." We wanted to avoid being THE married couple, and make sure we weren't viewed as excluding ourselves from the roving community.

Just a few weeks into the ride, we needed to reevaluate. We didn't like riding miles away from each other, and arriving at our destinations sometimes hours apart. We found ourselves frustrated and less than impressed with our other companions. While it was fun to have different experiences to discuss at the end of the day, we wished we had shared the day's scenery and challenges with each other instead. We decided that since we were, in fact, married, people would understand if we wanted to ride with each other every day.

Being the only married couple in a group of 20- and 30-somethings as we traveled from town to town earned us an interesting label. We were often introduced as a novelty: "And these are our MARRIED riders!" Knowing we were married often caused people to feel they needed to cater differently to us. As strange as it felt, the response had its perks. Sticking together meant that the nursery room at a host church could be reserved for us (while the rest of the team slept sardines-style in the hall). It also gave us permission to sneak away every now and then - getting a hotel on our anniversary night and having our own two-person tent.

However, we quickly learned that traveling with your spouse isn't all honeymoon nights and lovely roadside conversations. Being each other's best friend meant we shared our greatest joys and our biggest trials. It's much easier to vent honestly (and sometimes take out one's frustrations) to the person with whom you're most comfortable. This meant that we could go for miles not talking to each other, or miles shouting at each other.  We also discovered more things on which we shared a deep connection. At each day's end, and at the ride's final end, we both agreed that we wouldn't have wanted to share the trip with anyone else. Having dozens of other riders from across the country with whom to compare, we confirmed that we were each other's favorite riding and traveling partner.

At the end of the trip, we were reminded of Rolf Pott's (author of Vagabonding) sage wisdom: Choose your traveling companions wisely. We couldn't agree more!

Friday, September 9, 2011

New Jersey Wedding: The Party Bus

If you are looking for a way to make a sister-in-law who is not actually in the wedding, but will inevitably be hanging around, feel included, I would start with extending an invitation to her for her to ride on the Party Bus with you and all of your bridesmaids.
Back in April, L. told me, "you're coming on the party bus with us!"  I was super excited, because otherwise, it was just going to be me, on my own, driving to the church and the photo-location and the reception site, since Mark was in the wedding.

The bridal party for the wedding was too big for a standard limo, so they rented a party bus.  I had never been on a party bus before, but was not picturing a giant limo.  I was picturing something a little fancier than a school bus, kind of like when my family chartered a bus for the Renaissance Festival for my grandpa's 80th birthday.  Instead, the party bus pulled up complete with flashing lights and a soundtrack that started off with Going to the Chapel.  If you have to travel to your wedding, I highly recommend the party bus.

A quick tip though - make sure you tell your limo driver any shortcuts you usually use.  Ours made us about 10 minutes late to the ceremony by taking the major roads instead of the back roads that my in-laws use to get to their church, and since the windows were down, we didn't realize where we were going until it was too late.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

New Jersey Wedding: Getting Ready

It is surely weird to recap another person's wedding, but I'm going to recap my SIL's nonetheless.  It was so very different from ours, and what struck me as funny is that a lot of people would look at her wedding and call it very traditional or very WIC - church ceremony, big hotel reception - but at the same time, it was a low-key way to have a wedding.  I came away thinking the same thing I've always thought, which is there is no wrong way to have a wedding.  And I think that's the heart of the APW philosophy, so I wanted to showcase some of the big differences between a more traditional wedding and what we did.

L. got ready at the house, which was great because everything that we needed was there.  I talked about this before, but getting ready at the house definitely has it's advantages.  And disadvantages.  We'll talk about the cat later.

Things happen when a wedding is approaching.  Things rip.  They break  You need safety pins, hairspray, bobby pins, scissors, a vase for flowers.  All these things can be put in your emergency kit, but if you're like me and leave at at the hotel, you're SOL.  As long as your house itself doesn't stress you out, getting ready at home is pretty relaxing.  It also meant that there was plenty of room to spread out and hang out on the couch while we were waiting - because I will say, the child-size chairs in our getting ready room were a pretty big disadvantage.  We also had a pretty sweet food spread going on for constant all-day snacking.

The ladies from the hair salon came to the house, and were still really reasonably priced.  When I priced hair-at-home, it was insanely expensive, but these ladies charged pretty standard salon prices ($65-ish for an updo, $20 for a blow-out) compared to what I had found.  
I didn't used to be a fan of the wrap-around towel dresses, but L. got them all for us and they were SO cute, and they make fantastic summer bathrobes.  I've been wearing mine every day since the wedding.  This is something we couldn't have worn at a salon or venue (I had wanted to get my girls matching green zip-up hoodies) if we had gotten ready there, but they were super fun.  

Wait, whose that doing L.'s makeup? Oh yeah! It's our photographer, Kiersten Rowland of Prema Photographic.  She's one of L.'s very best friends, and it was so nice to get to spend time with her.  There is really something amazing about hiring somebody to capture your wedding when they are also a part of your life, so I feel really lucky that we get to see Kiersten so much.  

Friday, September 2, 2011

DIY Updos

My SIL had a UK reception last week after her wedding, and I showed up at Mark's grandparent's house to help her get ready.  She and her mom were trying to figure out what to do with her hair, and she'd already put in a cute braid, but her hair is a shade too short to do a properly easy up-do with, so I wound up freehanding it a bit.  This is a pretty easy style for somebody with shoulder length hair and a friend.
I wound up gathering L's hair into a half-ponytail, and then wrapping the strands of loose hair around the ponytail holder and securing them in place with bobby pins.  From there, it was pretty easy to curl the rest of her hair around and secure it at the base of the ponytail holder.  The hair flower helped hide the fact that I had stuck it a little too far to the left, which was handy.  If you are going to DIY your hair, a veil is also a helpful way to hide the mess.  I then super-hair-sprayed it in place, and since English hairspray is really wet, held it in place with a loose ponytail holder until it had dried.  

Anyone have any tips for doing your hair yourself or with a friend?  I think it's good for everybody to have a fancy style that they turn to when they need to look a little bit spiffy.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

DIY hair fascinator

So my sister in law got married last week!  Yay! Since my in laws are English, they were all discussing their fascinators the day before the wedding and I remembered I'd forgotten to order one for myself. A quick trip to Michaels and ten minutes with a glue gun yielded me this:

It matched my dress perfectly, and I got, as my British in-laws would say, loads of compliments on it.

I looked for a hair fascinator tutorial, but only found a lot of wedding fascinator tutorials, and I wanted something less ostentatious and without a giant flower.  So for this you need:
-1 hair comb (it happens that I used to wear them, so I still had a bunch lying around, you can get a pack for like $2.99 at CVS)
-1 bag guinea feathers (I was looking for peacock feathers, but I found a big bag of multi-colored guinea feathers and picked those up instead.)  It was about $3 at Michaels.
-hot glue gun

Quick tip: turn the ceiling fan off for this.  Husband came in to find me covered in glue and feathers at one point because they were blowing everywhere.

1.) Lay out your guinea feathers in the order you want them.  I decided I wanted them alternating colors, from largest to smallest, and I needed them to all face the left.  Feathers that curved to the right were discarded.
2.) Heat up your hot glue gun.  If yours has settings, use the "low" setting.  If it does not have settings, be very careful not to burn your fingers.
3.) Add one drop of glue at a time, then add a feather.  I know it sounds dumb to point this out, but hot glue dries really quickly and if you spread glue all the way along the comb, it will be dry before the end.  So glue as you go.  Be sure to add enough glue towards the end, even if you are afraid it is becoming a big sticky mess.
4.) Allow to dry before sticking in your hair.  If any of the feathers are falling out of place, add a bit of hairspray.

And a couple shots of it (and me) in action.
You can't really see the fascinator, but I wanted to make it clear how well it matched my dress.  Yes, I took the lens cap off before I started filming.  

More to come from a fantastically fun wedding.  Big thanks to Mark's cousin Tom for playing paparazzi on this one.  

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Monday Marriage Matters: Teamwork

Love is: agreeing when your crazy partner suggests a 70+ mile bike ride through Wales.

Marriage is: telling your partner, during the middle of a thunderstorm on a mountain in God-knows-where, Wales, that, "we will be okay."

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

What Exactly Do You Use A Stand Mixer For, Anyway?*

I was telling a friend over the weekend that we got our Kitchenaid as an off-registry gift, but that I really do love it and have been surprised.  I think a lot of people register for Kitchenaids because somebody talks them into it or, "I want to learn to cook" or "I want to learn to make holiday cookies".  (Don't get me started on the people that get the really expensive huge one because they think they will make holiday cookies but have never baked anything in their lives.  If you are one of those people, feel free to justify yourself in the comments.)  I used to have a Sunbeam stand mixer, which I liked because I could scrape the bowl as I used it.  But it wasn't as powerful as the Kitchenaid, and the bowl has to turn, which means that if there is something particularly thick or cold in the bowl, the mixer gets stuck and needs some hand assistance.  I have a hand mixer, and was planning to continue just using a hand mixer until we had a house, but you don't look a gift-mixer in the bowl, after all.  So we kept Darth Mixer, and he has proved very useful to us.  I thought I'd share some of my favorite recipes.

Anyway, last week, for the first time, we used a stand mixer to make ice cream.  It was a friend's stand mixer, and it made amazing salted caramel ice cream.  We are now discussing whether we would actually use the ice cream maker attachment, or, if since we would have to go to the store to get the stuff to buy ice cream anyway, we wouldn't rather just go out and get ice cream.  Because it was good, and fun, but it wasn't that good, and it was a lot of work.  (So really and truly think about whether you want the ice cream maker attachment, because nobody I know that has one actually uses it on a regular basis. Feel free to disagree in the comments!)

I also recently made my first cake from scratch, which was incredibly delicious and easy.  I won't be buying cake mix anymore (unless it's funfetti).  I also tried out a pumpkin cheesecake.  Creaming three sticks of cream cheese is not something I could have done with a hand mixer, and I don't even think the sunbeam would have held up very well.  I have been having some trouble with cookies, to be honest, but our chef friend told me over the weekend that I need to be using the paddle attachment to be creaming butter and sugar, not the whisk attachment.

My favorite thing to do with the mixer is make bread. The food processor also works pretty well for making bread though, so never fear if you don't have a KitchenAid.  I have found great recipes in The New Best Recipe Cookbook and How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, but frankly, the white bread recipe that comes with the KitchenAid is a pretty good starter.

What do you use a stand mixer for?  And do you share my belief that everybody needs a hand mixer, a stand mixer is optional, but if you have a stand mixer, you should also have a hand mixer?

*Another post inspired by the fabulously funny Robin Hitchdied.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Monday Marriage Matters: Beyond flowers: easy ways to say “I’m sorry I was such a jerk last night”

My husband has never brought me flowers because we had a fight.  I have never brought him flowers.  The thing we do for each other when we have a fight (or simply, one of us acts like a jerk) is pretty simple.  For starters, we say, "I'm sorry I was such a jerk last night."  Nothing helps like apologizing.  Flowers say, "I'm sorry you got upset."  Actually apologizing says, "I was a jerk, I know it, and I feel badly about the way in which I acted or the things I said." 

If I really want to show that I'm sorry, I try a little bit harder to alleviate the tension that caused the fight.  If we have a fight about general cleanliness, the day after a fight, I'll often find myself picking up around the house.  I look for organization solutions that are creative, inexpensive, and help stave off future arguments.  I speak up before a situation gets out of control and leads to a fight, so we can talk through the issue before talking turns into shouting.  Last Wednesday, we left for my sister-in-law's wedding, which was a stressful departure.  Once we had calmed down, we talked through coming up with a strategy for leaving tomorrow for our trip to England so that we don't have a stressful departure.  Will it work? Maybe, maybe not.  Only time will tell.

How do you say/show you are sorry?  Do you get your significant other flowers?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Travel Recommendations

It just now occurred to me to ask for help with our upcoming trip to Wales and England!  You all were so helpful with our honeymoon (and every reader recommended place was delicious!) that I'm hoping some folks might have good recommendations for places to eat or fun things to do.  We are going to Cardiff, cycling the Taff trail up to Talybont Reservoir, and then cycling the canal towpath over to Abergvenny and taking a train back to Cardiff, so any dining/sightseeing recommendations for Cardiff or Abergvenny would be super helpful. 

After Cardiff, we head over to Leeds, where Mark's grandparents live. We probably won't get out much, but I would love to see more of Leeds and maybe do something fun with some of his family, so recommendations for good places to walk, eat, drink, or do other things would be great! 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Monday Marriage Matters: Who should move for whose career: The Armageddon of Newlywed Fights

Another title brought to you by the fabulously funny Robin.  We actually haven't had this fight, because rather than committing to jobs, we've committed to a place to live.  Or more specifically, I've committed.

Currently, I'm the one applying for jobs.  This has been the case for the last year.  And lawyers are a little bit lucky, in that we are limited to a particular state, so I know I'm not going to find my dream job in Oregon and pack up and move.  However, I've applied to jobs that would be an hour, or more, commute.  And I have applied to those jobs with the full knowledge that we will not move for my job.

This is for a couple of reasons.  The first is that we really really like living in Baltimore.  It's a great city, we have a fabulous apartment in a great location, and we are finding and building a community for ourselves.  And in the past couple of years, I've seen several friends make the decision to take great jobs in places that they don't like to live, and I think that geographic unhappiness can be almost as bad as career unhappiness.  This might seem silly, but plenty of people make the decision to move to a city like New York or LA to try to make their careers happen, so it seems to me like my family should be able to make the same choice. So I committed to only applying to jobs that are commutable.

The second reason is that my husband has a job already.  And if I were going to be getting a job that made more than twice what he does, we might consider moving wherever I have a job.  But it seems really unfair to make my husband leave the job where he has built up seniority and a reputation for himself, all because I found myself a job that pays the same and would require that both of us start over.

The third reason is that well, it's my turn.  When I started law school, even though I desperately wanted to live in the city, we moved in together at the halfway point (he had a 45 minute commute, mine was 30), and when my husband got laid off, two weeks after we signed our lease, I refused to even entertain the idea that he would take a job that wasn't as close to Baltimore as he could get.  I was kind of a jerk about it.  But he found a job that was outside of the city, and we moved into the city as soon as our lease was up, even though his commute actually got a little bit longer (his office was supposed to move into the city when we did, but they took another year.)

The fourth reason is that we only have one car.  So any job that I get would have to pay enough for us to buy a second car, if we were both going to have driving commutes.  The money we save by not needing another car almost makes up for the fact that I have yet to find full time, permanent employment.

But sometimes, it seems like all of these reasons aren't enough.  It seems like considering that I worked really hard for my degree, I shouldn't be holding myself back based on geography.  It seems like if we would be making similar money, it maybe makes sense for his career to take a backseat to mine for a little while.  It seems like if I want to really consider myself a feminist and a strong independent woman, I shouldn't be taking my husband's needs and wants and his desire to keep riding his bicycle to work into account quite so much.  But I think that if my husband is willing to get up and go to work every day and support me and generally keep quiet about how many pairs of shoes I buy and not pressure me to get a high-paying job, or take any job I'm offered, then I'm very very lucky and all I can offer him back is not asking him to quit his job and move somewhere else.

If we were both on the market right now though, man, this would be a constant fight.  I think if I really did want to take a job that wasn't commutable, we would end up with a commuter marriage (living in two separate places), which doesn't seem terribly cost efficient unless new job pays a lot more.

Have you had this fight?  How did you resolve it?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Hand exercises to alleviate Thank You Note cramps.

Robin had a great post yesterday, and in classic How I Met Your Mother style, I took it as a challenge, which I accepted.  So welcome to the first of 10 posts about being a newlywed.  Some of these will be part of Monday Marriage Matters posts, some will not.  So here's today's - Hand Exercises to Alleviate Thank You Note Cramps.  Also applicable for writing addresses on invites or escort cards (but only if you are really stubborn.  Please just type those.)

The biggest recommendation I can make for avoiding cramps is to choose your tools carefully - you want a gelly pen, or a fountain pen - something that writes easily and smoothly.  You also want to set yourself up at a desk or table, and don't slouch.  You must also take frequent breaks, and not try to write all of your thank-you notes at once.

Write your thank-yous with your spouse, and take breaks to massage each others hands.  Hand massage is much more effective when done by another person.  You want to take your thumbs and trace along the tendons from the knuckles towards the wrist.  Rub each finger individually and tug on it a little - you don't have to crack the knuckle, but do give it some relief.

Other exercises that work pretty well are just pressing the fingers against the other hand, and shaking them out.  If you would like, you can get a stressball, or make a loaf of bread - kneading helps relieve some of the cramps.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Monday Marriage Matters: Health Insurance

I was complaining over the weekend about jobs that don't offer benefits, and my friend said, "but doesn't Mark's job just cover you?"  He, being unmarried, with mostly unmarried friends, stated that he thought that covering a spouse for free was standard for a company.  I believe I laughed in his face.

When we got married, I had GradMed coverage in case I got hit by a car.  Immediately after we got back from our honeymoon, we filled out the paperwork to be put on Mark's insurance.  I knew the insurance wasn't great, but I was glad to have it, even though it meant we were paying more than $200 a month.  Until I went to get a prescription filled and the co-pay made my jaw drop.  But the real jaw-dropping moment happened a couple months later, when the company changed insurance, and the amount we were paying for me was going to go up to more like $350.  I was still unemployed at this time.

So I started shopping for an individual plan.  I turned to, which could cover me right away (they are not paying me to write this) and I had to pick between several plans.  But as we tried to navigate the question of how high a deductible we wanted and what kind of benefits I needed (I get injured a lot), it was pretty difficult.  Eventually I settled on a plan that seemed to get me the most for my money, and I went with it.  I actually haven't used it yet, other than logging into the website, but I feel good to have it.  We got lucky on one thing - I could stay on Mark's dental and optical insurance, without paying for the rest of it, so I don't have to pay out of pocket on that.

I know talking to a lot of other married couples that they face similar issues.  Their spouse's insurance doesn't cover them, it's lousy, it's non-existent.  There's also the issue that Lauren is facing, which is that she hasn't gotten on her husband's insurance yet, but she's been sick since their honeymoon.  Fewer and fewer jobs are offering health insurance benefits now, and more and more people are in one or more of these situations.

We never for a second considered that I could go without insurance.  Firstly, I'm accident prone, and I'm downright unlucky.  Secondly, I go to the doctor pretty regularly, or if something is wrong.  Thirdly, hospital bills are one of the leading causes of financial troubles and bankruptcy, and I didn't want a stupid risk we took early on in our marriage to destroy our life savings.  Illness or bankruptcy could still destroy us, but with insurance, I feel a little bit better.

Has anyone else been surprised to find that getting health insurance by getting married isn't as easy as we were led to believe? Did anyone get married specifically to get health insurance coverage?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Door Hangers

Last weekend was a crafting extravaganza with my SIL and my MIL for my SIL's upcoming wedding.  We made favor tags, table numbers, and escort cards, but I threw in a last minute project that my SIL loved.
I was perusing a craft site the week before I went up and saw these door hangers. I realized they were absolutely perfect for my SIL's late-night-dance-party wedding, and decided, WIC style, that she HAD to have them.  Also, since we're all at one hotel, they will help everybody know who else is with the wedding, which I always think is fun.  So I sent her an email, she concurred, and after twenty minutes of Microsoft Word and a printer, we had door hangers.  

The part that made ours really really easy was that we didn't do them double sided.  We did single sided hangers that said "Please do not disturb" on one side, and then just did a stamped pattern on the other side.  To make your own single-sided door hangers, just open MS word, make the paper landscape, add a text box, format your text, and then copy-paste two more times so that you have three doorhangers on the page.  Print them, cut them out, and then cut a circle using either a circle cutter, a 2-inch-punch, or scissors and a steady hand.  

You can find plenty of tutorials or templates for double sided doorhangers over at Weddingbee in the DIY section, and it was a really easy and fun project that I think people will enjoy.


I read the article from Salon about engagement pictures this week.  And it was funny, at least the parts I agree with, about how sometimes, props are a bit silly.  But what really stuck out to me was this quote:
"Planning a wedding is a void of joy for the couple. It involves awful conversations in which you must select who not to invite to your wedding and decide what important thing not to spend money on and compromise between people you love. "  

It's true, in a lot of ways.  The guest list conversations are awful, the what-song-shall-we-dance-to hunt seemed like an endless chore.  The "you spend too much time thinking/blogging about the wedding" talking-tos I got were annoying.  The planning-the-crafts and the adding-to-the-to-do list was awful.  But there was a lot more fun than the writer of the article alludes to.  Our engagement pictures were fun.  Our food tastings were fun.  Going to the organic grocery store to buy the same amazing cheese and crackers we had at our food tasting was fun.  Going to practice our first dance was fun.

When I look back on wedding planning though, the things that really stand out as fun are all of those things we talked about and dreamed and didn't happen.  The travel themed wedding we planned while we hiked through Castleton in England.  The card box made to look like a map container at a national park.  The tree planting ceremony.  All these ideas got scrapped, but the conversations in which we dreamed big and saw where our future could take us have set the stage for the conversations we have now about homes, families, and adventure.

So as much as wedding planning was sometimes a chore, I don't think it was "devoid of joy" any more than marriage is devoid of joy because on the weekends, we do laundry and clean the kitchen and run errands.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Monday Marriage Matters: Lucky

This spring, my husband's job changed a little bit, in that he now travels a lot more than he used to.  Which gives me a little bit of freedom, and a whole lot of lessons in how lousy I am being a grown-up.  When I am on my own, I eat popcorn for dinner, don't take out the garbage, and leave dishes in the sink for days on end.  I remember this kind of behavior from college, when I had roommates who would make a giant pile of my dirty dishes and put a note on it reminding me that I was not raised in a barn. 

I came home from a long weekend at a bachelorette party to find the kitchen clean, the fridge cleared out of gross leftovers, and the laundry done.  My husband is an extremely patient man, and I'm very, very lucky.

Anyone else a disaster when it comes to being a grownup?

In the News

At my in-laws house, we caught a bit on the news about a bridal shop that closed it's doors and left the brides and bridesmaids without their dresses.  We've discussed before that if a wedding vendor goes out of business, it's unlikely you'll get your deposit back (even if you have a legal right to it) and they may leave you high and dry before the wedding.

I don't have much advice on this subject except that the whole "having to order a dress" thing was one of the things I disliked the most about the bridal industry, and a big part of why I bought my dress at Running of the Brides.  There was something comforting about walking out of the store with my dress that day, and knowing it was in the closet at home, and nobody was going to run off with my deposit.

One thing that the news did point out was that if you buy your dress on a credit card, the credit card company may insure the purchase and give you back your money, but if you pay cash or by check, that is less likely.  So that is at least something to consider when you put down your deposit.  Also I was surprised that the store required payment in full for bridesmaids dresses - and I'm not sure if this is standard.  Did anyone else find this to be required?